Homophobia, transphobia and biphobia behind high HIV infection rates


The WeTheBrave campaign says that the LGBTI community is bedeviled by high infection rates due to stigma and discrimination.

In a statement to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) on May 17, the Anova Health Institute – the organisation behind WeTheBrave – cited troubling statistics.

A recent survey, commissioned by the Other Foundation and undertaken by the Human Sciences Research Council about attitudes towards homosexuality and gender non-conformity in South Africa, found that 70% of South Africans feel that homosexual sex and breaking gender dressing norms is “wrong” and “disgusting”.

In addition, almost 30% believe that gays and lesbians do not deserve the same human rights as the rest of the country’s citizens. What’s more, 450,000 have physically harmed women who dressed and behaved like men in public and 240,000 have beaten up men who dressed and behaved like women. Alarmingly, about three million South Africans say that they might commit acts of violence against gender non-conforming people in the future.

“These frightening figures highlight the importance of IDAHOT,” said Nina Morris Lee, Head of Marketing at the Anova Health Institute, which is spearheading the WeTheBrave sexual health campaign targeting gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM).

Lee noted that IDAHOT organisers have pinpointed HIV and stigma on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as requiring crucial action. This is due to LGBTI community members around the world being disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with infection rates in MSM and transgendered individuals being up to 20 times higher than in the general population. The situation has been attributed to them being left out of programmes for HIV/AIDS prevention, care, treatment and support.

Up until the implementation of WeTheBrave, South Africa too largely ignored HIV prevention and treatment efforts amongst MSM. Funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the campaign addresses both prevention and treatment issues in an affirming, non-judgemental and sex-positive way.

“We fully agree with the statement by IDAHOT organisers that ‘The fight against homophobia and transphobia plays a significant role in combating the epidemic,” said Lee.

“Even with the advancement of biomedical factors relating to HIV medicine, homophobia and transphobia, if not addressed, will always act as the major drivers behind HIV amongst MSM and trans people’. In line with this, we encourage all South Africans to take a stand against homophobia and its lethal consequences by getting involved in local IDAHOT events on the 17th of May this year,” Lee stated.

For more information on the campaign visit www.wethebrave.co.za or follow it on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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